Friday, April 17, 2009

Thai-American romance Bitter/Sweet to premiere at Houston's WorldFest

The coffee-infused romantic drama Bitter/Sweet was filmed in Thailand last year, with a mixed cast of Hollywood players and top Thai talent. The brewing is complete and it's ready to drink, writes guest blogger Lekha J Shankar.

Story by Lekha J Shankar

Bitter/Sweet, a Thai-American production with a big Thai-American cast, is to have its North American premiere at the 42nd WorldFest-Houston International Film & Video Festival on April 24.

The film will be released in Thailand later in the year, and Bangkok-based Swiss producer Urs T Bruner says he hopes it can be shown at the Bangkok International Film Festival.

American co-producer Jon Karas of Capitol Motion Pics will coordinate the film’s sales in the US.

The film has an impressive Thai-American cast, with a brief, guest appearance by singer Tata Young. But watch out for her in the very first scene of the film, or you’ll miss her totally!

"Mamee" Napakpapha Nakprasitte (Art of the Devil 2 and 3, Mae Bia, Butterfly Man) plays Ticha, a no-nonsense public-relations executive in Bangkok. She has no time for any distractions apart from her job -- until young American coffee-buyer Brian (Hollywood actor Kip Pardue) is sent to check out coffee beans in Thailand, and crosses her path.

Or rather, she is forced by her parents (1970s Thai cinema stars Sompop Benjatikul and Viyada Umarin), who sell coffee beans in Krabi, to cross his path, and lure him to buy the beans from their community.

Ticha is outraged, but is told that the struggling community would be thrown a lifeline by the coffee baron, and so she agrees to play the perfect PR woman.

Accompanied by her friend (Kalorin Nemayotin) and the latter’s garrulous, flirtatious Austrian boyfriend Werner (Spencer Garret), Ticha travels to Krabi, and plays "guide" to Brian, who, like most foreigners to the Kingdom, is totally smitten by the countryside. He’s smitten by Ticha too, and she finds herself weakening as well. Just as he bends forward to plant a kiss on her, his LA-based fiancee Amanda (Laura Sorenson) lands in Krabi.

More drama takes place, when Brian’s boss Calvert Jenkins (James Brolin) decides to suddenly fly down too. But instead of testing the coffee beans, he wanders on his own, checking out the boxer-boyfriend (Akara Amarttayakul from Muay Thai Chaiya) of Ticha’s perky sister Mint (Pakkaramai Potranan).There’s a big confrontation, and the Thai actor impressively holds his own against the thespian Hollywood star.

In the final reckoning, the coffee beans of Krabi triumph, and the American coffee-team forge a permanent link there, in more ways than one.

The film was shot in the little-seen coffee plantations of Krabi, with a total Thai crew.

American director Jeff Hare was so impressed by their high levels of proficiency, that he already plans to shoot his next film here.

As for first-time producer Brunner, he plans to continue making films, with a multi-national cast, targetting the international market, but they would all be shot in Thailand.

The reason - superbly good locations, facilities, superbly low prices.

Lekha J Shankar is a Bangkok-based journalist and world cinema maven.

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(Thanks Lekha!)

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